On April 10, 2013, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed suit against PHMSA in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the Agency has failed to produce records and documents in response to requests made by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The group seeks copies of facility response plans (FRPs) submitted to PHMSA, and records relating to the Agency’s participation in any exercises under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).  In a press release accompanying the suit, PEER alleges that PHMSA cannot name any unannounced emergency preparedness exercises it has conducted in the past five years; that the Agency has only produced limited documents from the more than 300 FRPs submitted by pipeline operators; and that PHMSA cannot identify any FRP it has rejected or amended.  The lawsuit requests that the court issue an order directing PHMSA to disclose to PEER all withheld records, and award PEER its attorney fees and costs.  FRPs are largely generic in nature, but often subject to Confidential Business Information or Homeland Security Critical Energy Infrastructure claims of sensitive information.  The PEER suit comes at a time when PHMSA finds itself facing increasing pressure and with limited resources to respond to various high-profile release incidents, as well as to comply with numerous new regulatory requirements established by the 2012 Pipeline Safety Act amendments.  In 2012, the Agency was sued by the City of San Francisco in the aftermath of the 2010 San Bruno incident, and the Agency has subsequently been the target of NTSB, OIG and GAO reports critical of the Agency’s oversight of pipeline operators.  Click here for a copy of PEER’s Complaint.